From the Summary of
Strengthening Canadian Democracy: The Views of Parliamentary Candidates (PDF)
March 2006 Vol. 7, no. 2 3 IRPP Policy Matters
The democratic reform agenda has been driven by the recognition that many members of the general public in Canada are dissatisfied with aspects of the democratic regime...
But in order to gain a fuller comprehension of what ails and what may cure Canadian democracy, it is also important to take into account the sentiments and views of elites. This is the premise of Jerome H. Black and Bruce M. Hicks’ study, which draws upon data from the 2004 Canadian Candidate Survey. This was a survey of candidates who ran for the Canadian Parliament in the June 28, 2004, general election. Included in the survey sample were candidates from the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party.
The broadly based questionnaire delved into the backgrounds and political experience of the candidates and explored their views on a range of issues. In this study the authors focus on the candidates’ overall levels of satisfaction with Canadian democracy and their opinions on the setting of election dates, the nomination process, the first-past-the-post system, proportional representation, the representation of women and visible minorities, free votes, party discipline and the power of Canada’s courts...
With regard to the views of candidates, Black and Hicks find that ... a majority in all five parties agreed with having fixed election dates and more free votes. There was also significant support for other reforms, which varied according to the party. On the issue of altering the electoral system, there was considerable polarization, with the Green and the NDP candidates sharply in favour of proportional representation and the Bloc, Conservative and Liberal candidates adamantly against it.
With reference to the underrepresentation of women and visible minorities, there were also noticeable differences, but they covered the full range of opinion. At one end of the spectrum were the Green and NDP candidates, who were most preoccupied with these representational gaps, while the Conservative candidates were at the opposite end of the spectrum, and Bloc and Liberal candidates fell in the middle.
This speaks to another clear pattern: where there were notable party differences, more often than not the Conservative candidates stood apart. For example, on the question of who should have the final say on the interpretation of the Constitution, only the Conservatives — overwhelmingly — thought that it should be Parliament, rather than the courts.
In comparing the views of the candidates with those of the general public, Black and Hicks offer two perspectives. One involves looking at which party has the most candidates on the same side as the general public; from this perspective, the NDP candidates were most frequently on-side with public opinion, followed by the Green and Bloc candidates. Looking at it from another perspective, since the public itself is often divided, one could identify the party that reflects similar divisions as being most in step with the public; from this vantage point, the Liberal Party was favoured. From either perspective, however, Conservative candidates were least likely to be in accord with the views of the public.
[My despair and cynicism runneth over.]